Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Dumpster Bustin' It Underground: That's How We Roll

Monday, November 29, 2004

Football Fundamentalism

My Dad once called those who enjoy sporting contests fans... which in his book was short for fan-atics. This, coming from a man who rarely missed a Jets game and never failed to pour over the sports section over morning coffee (or tomatoes covered in salad dressing, a peculiar predilection of his...) in Newsday, Long Island edition.

Maybe that's why I've always been a little bit neurotic about my own enthusiasm for sports. I enjoy sports -- especially football and basketball (I even played rugby for an exhilarating/brutal 18 months in college... good source material for Possible Ends, the novel-in-progress) -- but have never wanted to be accused of being like my brother, who would carry a crappy portable radio about town (or down to the pool, or to the tennis courts, and on and on) to listen to Mets games and bang the fake wood panel on the wall of the basement on Sundays, yelling J-E-T-S.

All of this is strange prelude (and perhaps an apology for including a first ever sports-related post in Dumpster Bust?) to a few ideas I had this very evening while watching Brett Favre (Fav-reh to all you There's Something About Mary fans out there) in his 200th start for the Packers on Monday Night Football. Fun stuff: Favre at Lambeau Field, turning the Rams into his plaything, John Madden gushing in that unique and enthusiasm-inspiring way of his (say what you want about Madden, but the Michaels/Madden pairing makes MNF seem like MNF again).

But was I focusing on all of that? Kinda, but not really. I was thinking up some new rules that would really spice up the game. Maybe that's what makes me me. Or strange. You, the readers of the mighty mighty Dumpster Bust, may choose.

I started thinking about the two-point conversion, which was instituted about five years back. It's an interesting edition to the game: after a touchdown (6 points) the scoring team has the option of going for the 1-point kick, which has been around forever, or the 2-point "conversion," a one-play chance to score from the two-and-a-half yard line. Statistics will prove out that 1-point extra points score upwards of 95% of the time, while two-point conversion are successful about 50% of the time. The two-point conversion makes games more exciting at the end as a team has more options when trying to catch up with the opposition.

All well and good. However, I started to think: why have the 1-pointer at all? Why not just eliminate it and leave the two-pointer as your option. The 1-pointer is almost automatic, therefore it's boring and irrelevant. Can it.

Okay, now we have the two-pointer. Let's go further. How about instituting a second option, worth an additional four points. After you score, you get the option of the two-point conversion, or you get the ball at the opposition's forty yard line. You get four plays to score and that's it -- no first downs or anything (except by defensive penalty). There's no clock -- just four plays, forty yards. I think that would be pretty exciting, and make a blowout much more interesting. For example, a team losing by 20 points with five minutes to go would have a chance to win. Maybe the four-point option would kick in only with five or two minutes left in a game.

Then, I went further, because I had to -- Green Bay was kicking ass and I certainly didn't want to start my assignment that's due at midnight tonight. The field, I thought -- why not make it bigger. When there's a breakaway for a touchdown, we want to see some serious running, not this namby pamby 80-yarder crap. Let's make the field 150-yards long, and add the width to 75-yards for good measure (from the current 50). Now there's some action for you.

Now, on a slightly more serious note -- the time between plays in a football game kills me. Sure, some games have tons of action and are engaging from start to finish, but many are grind-it-out snoozers. In fact, some teams are built as Ball Control Teams... which means their entire reason d'etre is to sit on the ball between plays as the game clock winds down. Keep Away ball, in other words. Boring.

Currently, the "play clock" runs about 40 seconds, which means the offensive team has that long to snap a new play after the previous ones. If someone runs out of bounds with the ball, if there is an incomplete pass, a scoring play, or a time-out called, then the "game clock" stops. However, if the ball stays in bounds -- both clocks run. Therefore, you get dozens of plays each game where both teams stand around for 30 seconds with the precious seconds of the game -- perhaps the one you waited all week to see while alphabetizing crap and making new and pretty piles of crap at your crappy job -- melt and melt away.

This is silly. These guys are professionals, and can handle more plays, more action. I know all of us can too. The solution -- the clock always stops after a play. No matter what. No more ball control. More action. I can dig that.

Maybe all of this makes me crazy. Maybe it even makes me a fan. Who the hell knows?

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Dumpster Bust sliding at y'all

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Politics of Cable: Chris Matthews

I've come to terms with the fact that I have rolling obsessions. When I'm into something, it consumes me until the itch is scratched, and then I can leave it for a while and move onto something else. I try to keep these obsessions in check -- rein them in as best I can -- and live my life as normally as most humans (at least pretend to) do. I'll dig on books and lock myself in my apartment or a coffee shop until the three or four books I have to read get read. I'll watch three seasons omnibus fashion on DVD because that's the best way to find out what happens next (big love/hate shout-out to Netflix for this). Check-off the same for movies, and less so for sports or the occasional video game, and you get a pretty good picture of what it's like to be me on a day-to-day basis. Throw in a hot/cold obsession that I'm trying to wrestle to a happy medium, and you get nary a boring day.

Politics is one of my biggies as well. Since I spent about 10 of the last 10 months obsessing over the "most important election in our lifetimes" (please say it wasn't so...) I'm more than happy to spend a little down time rocking out my first novel, amping up Dumpster Bust: The Blog, hanging out with the wife, family, and dog, etc.

Nonetheless, when I want the occasional political fix nowadays, there are several ways to go. Online is among the best, as it's possible to scan many different points of view and get a read on what the big (and little) stories are with the right (read: left) click of the mouse. Newspapers are still great, though why pay when you get almost everything out there (with updates!) online. As sad as it is to say -- I grew up in a coffee and paper household (Newsday, Long Island edition) I'll only buy a newspaper when I'm at a coffee shop or on the road and in real need of a fix.

I find a lot of news on television to be a waste of time. Either it's trite and watered down (the Networks) or Talking Heads yapping so that you wish your head would explode as in Scanners (most of cable).

All in Dumpster Bust land now cry in unison:

Get to the bloody point, man!

Okay. I've always had an odd affinity for Chris Matthews, host of Hardball on MSNBC. First, the program focuses solely on politics, which is a rarity nowadays (see: the billion programs where you can get all your Kobe/Michael Jackson/celeb infotainment/regular infotainment/Mike Tyson/Laci Peterson news). Second, and most important, the guy has an unabashed, boy-like enthusiasm for politics as game and politics as (deadly serious) sport.

There's a great line from an old episode of The West Wing, where President Bartlett (the best President ratings can buy) has a momentary pause from the apocalyptic crisis of the moment. He greets a newly elected Congressman and says, with a twinkle in his eye, "Welcome to the show (or was it circus?) that never ends."

Matthews has a similar sensibility, and so do I. It's a fascination with the Machiavellian intrigue that affects everyday lives, and with the players who seem larger than life and who, every now and again, actually are. (That's why guys like Matthews worship at the alter of Winston Churchill, and you can put me squarely in the middle of that choir).

He's not always great, and occasionally he's a bit of a buffoon, as this recent Slate piece describes (though I would argue he's at his worst when the stakes are low). Matthews is at his best when the stakes are high, when a close election is coming down the wire, or a new star is on the rise.

Matthews has developed professional friendships with enough political heavyweights that you can at times feel as though you're eavesdropping on a substantive but fun conversation between two people in the know. John McCain, Joe Biden, and Ed Rendell fall into this category. He has a great camaraderie with his many political analysts: Ron Reagan, Howard Fineman, and (even) Pat Buchanan are among my favorites (I have a lot to say about the political leanings of cable talkshow panels, but I'll save that for a different post). He can also drop the hard questions from time to time (dropping the hammer on Michelle Malkin this summer in the midst of the Swift Boat Veterans insanity was classic) though I'll be the first to admit that he can do more of this. There are also some great moments of laughter (if you're a big political geek like me, that is) or lunacy: if you've never seen the clip of the Matthews / Zell Miller "duel" you owe it to yourself to check it out.

If you have a passion for politics and stomach cable news (or cable, or news) check out Hardball.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving -- Gabba Gabba(le)!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A Very Terrence Thanksgiving: Terrence the One-Armed Sorcerer (Episodes 1-3)

Dumpster Bust: The E-Zine was known for its serialized stories, which included the likes of The Domain, Krewl Paradice, and of course our beloved Terrence the One-Armed Sorcerer.

For a Thanksgiving treat, here's an omnibus edition of Terrence, which includes his first three "adventures." Enjoy...


Terrence the One-Armed Sorcerer: Episode #1
Oh, Terrence was a Sorcerer all right, it’s true... he just wasn’t
a very good one.

Terrence the Sorcerer wasn’t much of a morning person. While
waking up before 10 wouldn’t kill him, it wasn’t any kind of a
Mardi Gras either. So while the clock spat 7:30 am into the
early morning dimness, Terrence grumbled through his normal
morning routine of coffee (lots of sugar, no milk – Terrence was
lactose intolerant) and waffles. It was true: Terrence had taken
on a day-job to support his calling as sorcerer. Sadly, sorcery
wasn’t paying very well in those days. And to be honest, it
hadn’t paid well for some time.

The one-armed thing didn’t help. Not with the waffles, not with
the day-job (Terrence was an Account Representative at an
Employment Agency). Didn’t hurt his sorcering that much,
surprisingly, but then again, Terrence was never really that
good to begin with. Even before the accident.

Oh, the accident: everyone always wonders about the accident,
but we’ll get to that.

Terrence made his way down the stairs of his apartment building
to catch the 8:10 cross-down bus. Getting on the bus wasn’t too
bad, except on those days when he forgot to bring exact change,
which would precipitate an embarrassing one-armed self-grapple.
Of course, he could have willed the change to appear in his
hand, or in the bus’s change depository, but this would have
caused a commotion. And, it was just tacky.

He managed to arrive at work on time that Thursday, and was thus
able to avoid the derisive remarks from Bobbi Evans in Accounts
Payable (Half-day today, Terrence? Working hard or hardly
working, Terrence, huh?). Terrence sometimes dreamed about
transliterafying Bobbi into an 8 ½ x 11 piece of typing paper.
He would imagine - usually during that mid-morning caffeine
depression - writing Take This Thou Cow on said piece of
transliterafyed Bobbi/paper, crumpling it up, and tossing it
(Kareem-like, Sky Hook all the way) into the basketball hoop
over his garbage pail, the one with the Golden State Warriors
logo emblazoned on the backboard. Two points – swish. Stupid
office gimmicky crap. Anyway, such was the plight of the
sorcerer in the Modern Age.

As Terrence settled into his office chair, he flipped on his
computer, allowing him a few minutes to ponder the
possibilities. And that meant, as usual, pondering what had
already gone wrong.

Terrence the One-Armed Sorcerer: Episode #2
The Accident, Part I

Terrence the One-Armed Sorcerer settled into his squeaky chair at Magnet Employment Inc. – “If you’ve got the mettle, we’ll attract you a job!” – and stared blankly at his office calendar. August 3rd, 2003 it read. Almost five years to the day since the accident.

Ah, the accident. Everyone always wants to hear about the accident.

Things weren’t always like this for Terrence. The day-to-day grind, dealing with people like Bobbi Evans in Accounts Payable, scowling when someone forgot (or, more like refused) to make a fresh pot of coffee. Making a one-armed pot of coffee wasn’t easy, even for a not-so-good sorcerer.

Terrence liked to believe that things were better, once. He had been a plucky young apprentice under Chester the Magnificent, one of the more renowned sorcerers of the Western Sector. Chester had always been a bit of a pompous ass, in Terrence’s humble opinion, be he knew his sorcerous stuff rock-solid and couldn’t be discounted as a Master Sorcerer.

They had traveled to the Desert Beyond the Mountain (past the Denny’s out on I-680) to begin the training with Getty, the petulant Hawk Bat. Hawk Bat training was a renowned and hallowed portion of a sorcerer apprentice’s education, though no one could remember why.

“Discipline, my boy,” Chester had said, waving his atrociously opulent staff at Terrence. “Discipline, and patience.” The purple jewel on the staff’s tip glowed strangely in the afternoon light.

“I don’t know, Master, this all seems like a big waste of time if you ask me.”

“I didn’t, and I won’t, for your future’s edification.”

“But when are we gonna get to the cool stuff?” Terrence asked, dragging his small Pretend Staff into the dirt. “Like striking with lightning from above and conjuring with the forces of time and space and stuff.”

Chester snorted. “Oh, striking with lightning from above, he says? Conjuring with the forces of time and space and STUFF, he says? Boy, you couldn’t conjure the bra off a half-loaded prom date.” This last bit was said under his breath.

“What’s that?”

“Nothing—now onto Hawk Bats, that’s where you’ll cut your teeth, my boy!” Chester had regained his former regal composure. “Or cut something, at any rate,” he added, as though to himself. “Hawk Bats are tricky little creatures, Terrence,” he continued, sipping on a Diet Cola.

Terrence was busily employed grappling with the unwieldy Hawk Bat cage. Getty the Hawk Bat was busy in its own right, smashing himself into the front lock with a certain vicious joy.

“Getty’s especially so,” Chester was saying, “so careful now. You want to be extra careful—”

With that, the cage swung open, and Gety seized upon Terrence’s exposed forearm with its outstretched and lengthy claws. With a flourish of its short but powerful wings it took flight, with a howling Terrence flailing now in the desert breeze.

“Such a strong little creature,” Terrence could hear Chester calling from below, although he was undoubtedly preoccupied with being caught in the vice-grip of Getty, who was now employed in sweeping up to great heights and then dive-bombing into the shallow desert canyons.

In fact, all Terrence could think of to say was, “Ahhrrrgghhhhh!”

“I would have thought you could have handled such a trifling test,” Chester was going on as he sipped at his straw thoughtfully. “Well, actually, that’s not quite true. I was fairly certain that today would be your last day on this plane.”

Hearing this in quick bursts (Getty was now swirling in vicious circles) – “strong little…trifling test…last day…” – a sudden anger welled up inside him, an almost understanding. As his mind flailed for an incantation to get him out of the predicament, he noticed that Getty was swinging him ever closer to a large boulder sitting upon a low bluff.

“That’s the death-face rock,” Chester said, his voice calm, self-satisfied. “It’s called that because when your face smashes into it, you die.”

Terrence the One-Armed Sorcerer: Episode #3
The Accident, Part II

Now, everyone’s seen the after-school special or the little kiddies movie where the Young Hero discovers, at the moment of great and excruciating crisis, that as a matter of verily fact, the Magic Was Within Him (or Her) All Along. Well, for Terrence, at the moment of truth, poised over the Death Rock whilst in the clutches of Getty the Treacherous Hawk Bat (who was at the moment zipping up to speed, hurling Terrence round and round in anticipation of a final plunge into the Death Rock) out Young Hero Sorcerer Apprentice found this to be his moment for Magic.

Sort of.

He was getting right pissed, for one.

Terrence snatched a glance on one of his go-rounds at Chester the Magnificent, his mentor and supposed teacher, who was now calmly glancing up at him whilst sipping on his Diet Cola (“A sorcerer must be fit, my boy! It’s appearances – they count, the whole package and all, you know.”)

Closer and closer the death-face rock loomed (it’s called that, Chester informed Terrence, “because when your face smashes into it, you die”). Getty seemed to be cackling at Terrence, his Hawk Bat cries saying, “I’ve taken care of far better than you for Chester the Magnificent, boy; this is barely worth my time. I could have been preening myself, for lord’s sake! And by the way, when I said ‘take care of you’ I meant kill you, of course, just to be clear on things,” and so forth, in the Hawk Bat manner. Meanwhile, his claws gripped Terrence’s upper arm ever tighter.

“Good afternoon and adieu, my young fool of an apprentice,” Chester called out.

And that’s when it happened.

Terrence looked down and realized he had been clutching his staff (his “pretend staff,” Chester had called it, for a “pretend apprentice) almost as tightly as Getty was gripping his arm. As he was hurtled around in the air, Terrence could see he had but a few seconds and one or so go-rounds before he would, in fact, make good the death-face rock’s name. Looking down, he saw Chester standing on the ground, a calm self-assurance in his eyes. He seemed to be particularly enjoying his treachery. And his Diet Cola.

A rage shot through Terrence then, a shuddering wave of adrenaline, and he cried out a phrase (though later, he had no idea why) he had once overheard Chester talking about on his sorcerous cell phone:

“Cram jam-a-blya… hawk bat foof!”

An astounding jolt shot through Terrence then, blinding his eyes for a moment in its intensity. A moment later he was able to see, he realized he was on the ground, in the gravel, on the far side of the death-face rock. Getty was gone, at least for the moment… and there was something else.

“What’s a sorcerer?”

Terrence lurched forward in his office chair, so disoriented from his memory of that day that he knocked the remnants of a Styrofoam cup of coffee onto the floor. Bobbi from Accounts Payable happened to be walking past his desk at that moment and said, “you really oughta be more careful, hon,” though the snicker was barely beneath the surface. Terrence, grimacing, made to wipe it up and said to the person sitting at his desk, “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“We were talking about what kind of temp work I can get, and then you looked off and started muttering about a sorcerer and your arm blowing up and bat hawk or something.”

“Ah, yes,” Terrence said. “That’s good – perceptive, show’s your paying attention.”

And another day at the temp job desk dragged on for Terrence.

Now, you know this dog is all about the Dumpster Bust

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Blah'ged Out No More

As a news enthusiast (I'm not a junkie -- I can stop anytime... really), I've become pretty adept at scanning the Internet and generally finding out what's going on when something's going on. Over the past year, I've heard the term "blogosphere" thrown around as though "it" were a person, as in The Blogosphere had an effect on the election.

However, after a couple of weeks of diving into the world of blogging, I feel like Neo in The Matrix when he realized just far down that rabbit hole the red pill had taken him. There's just an amazing array of Stuff out there: from the great and awe inspiring to the amazingly and jaw droppingly crappy.

Here's several fun sites to spin through if you want to get to get your blogger jones satisfied:

Technorati - A good blog search engine that shows how many websites link to each blog.

The Truth Laid Bear - A fun site that mixes news with rankings of the blogosphere "environment" where Daily Kos and The Washington Monthly are termed Higher Beings and little old Dumpster Bust is termed an Insignificant Microbe... the nerve!

Blogger - Find your way to any website powered by Blogger (such as Dumpster Bust) and click around to random websites by way of the "Next Blog" link in the upper-right corner. This is a great way to browse what's out there, though be warned: you'll eventually end up in some strange or potentially offensive neighborhoods.

DB's Burning! (Come on, sing it like The Clash song... you know)

Monday, November 22, 2004

Politics, Politics, & Politics (Oh My): The Return of Keeping It Real Politik

I've been over to a new blog several times in the last day or so, one devoted solely to politics for those who were, let us say, none to pleased with the results of the recent election. It's run by a good pal of mine, Mike Valdman, and is entitled The Sorest Loser. Definitely give it a whirl if you're of a like mind, or have an open one (which, sadly, fewer and fewer of us seem to possess nowadays).

Hanging out over there put me in a political mind this chilly SoCal evening (well, it's chilly for us, okay?). I had a bunch of thoughts on the wackiness of the media in American culture, but I'll get to that another day. I suppose I've been trying to divert myself from politics, at least for a spell, as I feel as disheartened and flattened as any Democrat you are likely to meet. But the truth is that now is the time to do the hard thinking, at least for those who care and for those who are willing to do so. I think it's time for those who care about this country, especially the young-ish generation, to get off our collective asses and have our say. Stand up and be counted. Etc.

That being said, a scan of some left-leaning political websites and blogs will tell you that there's about to be a battle for who will lead the Democratic party -- both philosophically and literally -- into the near and medium-term future. Part of that battle is being fought right now to see who will replace Terry McAuliffe as the Democratic National Chairman. Right now, John Kerry and other old school moderates would like to install Tom Vilsack, the Governor of Iowa and finalist in the Veep sweepstakes this year (along with Gephardt and Edwards). I think that he would be a poor choice: someone is needed who is going to break the mold and energize the party for many years to come.

While many people are "scared" of how "liberal" Howard Dean is, I believe he would make a much better choice. Under the tutelage of the brilliant Joe Trippi, the Dean campaign revolutionized campaign financing forever by making the Internet a "killer app" of grassroots politics. He made it hip and fun to be into politics again, and perhaps most of all, he made people feel that being a Democrat was a good thing again: that we stand for something and are willing to fight for it. The truth is that Dean is a former practicing physician, an overall brilliant guy, and was a very successful Governor of Vermont.

Dean shares a quality with John McCain: he tells you what he thinks, and I think that's what makes both figures two of the most popular in American politics. They also both exhibit an independent streak that annoys the party insiders and delights independents. I think McCain sold out more than a little bit by how much he openly embraced Bush this year (I think that was a realpolitik maneuver for McCain '08) but that we can get into another time.

Do I think Dean would make a great president? I have no idea, but I must admit I was in a small way relieved when he slipped in the primaries (DB Note: Dean was a goner prior to The Scream, contrary to popular belief) as he presented a phat target for Karl Rove & Co. However, I do think he is and can continue to be a driving force in transforming the Democratic Party into a leaner, meaner (screamier?) machine.

Another thing the Democratic Party needs to do is, as Jesse Jackson Jr. recently put it, is to have an across-the-board overhaul of politics-as-usual. We need to develop a "bench" of party superstars, as the current crop is awfully thin:

- Hillary Clinton in '08 is looking like a shaky proposition at present. A polarizing, Northeastern Senator who will dredge up the recent political past may be too much to overcome in facing off against a heavyweight GOP opponent like McCain or Giuliani.

- John Edwards is Southern, charming, bright, and personable, but he never proved that he helped the ticket in any substantive way and faded badly after his stellar (and media driven?) primary run. And, he "retired" from the Senate so he's way out of the spotlight for the time being. (That being said, DB wishes Mrs. Edwards the very best for a speedy recovery.)

There are some bright new stars out there, such as Governor Mark Warner of Virginia, and, especially, Senator-elect Barack Obama of Illinois, but we need many more.

What is good is that Democrats are finally realizing, as a minority-status party, that there needs to be a foundation of media, grassroots organization, technology, and communication to match the Conservative Machine that has been built and finely tuned over the last twenty years. Indeed, stories and rumors that percolate on conservative websites like The Drudge Report and conservative radio (of which there are many personalities: Rush, Hannity, Savage, etc.) then float into conservative newspapers (The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal) and television (Fox News, oh ye of Faire and Balanced fame). This has been brought to the level of science to redirect the course of national discourse. Apparatus to combat this machine, such as blogs, websites, Air America radio, and liberal-minded think tanks are just coming on line now.

I hope that we get some leadership together to harness the new ideas and new personalities that are out there. And I hope we get our collective acts together for '06.

I, and 50+ million people like me, need something to look forward to.

Mornin' DB campers!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Welcome Y'All (Once Again) to Dumpster Bust

It's Week Two -- and you know what that means (DB Note: Anyone who knows, hit me up at ericberlin@hotmail.com).

Things have been getting a little bit silly over hear in DB land the last couple of days, but it's Sunday night now and time to get Serious (as opposed to Sirius, which I should be waxing manic about in fairly short order). For those of you who have not yet caught onto the Dumpster Bust mojo (which everyone out there is currently getting down with, muchos props to the DB fan-base), we talk about a little bit of everything around these parts, with a focus on politics, media, television, film, music, books, ideas, strange rantings (see Notes from the Perimeter below, a Strange Voyage that may well appear every Friday, exclusively on DB), and the occasional serialized short story. Bring your own ideas and comments, please, for DB is thirsty for rambunctious thoughts.

Now, onto the show.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Dumpster Bust leisure times

Friday, November 19, 2004

Notes from the Perimeter - November 19, 2004

Our Internet access cut out late last night, which caused me immediately to convulse in Tortured Panic. I spoke at length with an automated lady from Cyber-ia, her accent clangy, tinged with false warmth, and had me darting about for corners of the domecile, scurrying for routers and connections and synapse-controls and such.

This proved to be of no use so I sat in the floor on the living room, having first Incanted a circle about me with ivory and plastic plant parts and old remote controls from VCRs that died before the birth of our young pup Chelsea, who sat beside me, huddled within herself and slap slap slapping her tail into the floor with Woe.

I placed the tin foil helmet gently on my head (antennae facing East, to the dawn) to block out those who may be trying to See.

There I waited until morning until Amy awoke and shook me and told me to get-a-hold-of-myself-man. So here I sit in the public library, Outside of the Pasadena Fortress and amongst the folk of this village jewel in the southern california swarm.

And I wait with patience for the Repair Man to come. Then the Reckoning Times begin.

Notes from the Perimeter

- Never walk into a public library hungry or angry.

- Never assume that the pets can't read your thoughts.

- Always Act Casual when approached by Others (example: when asked for the time, touch your wrist gently and say as evenly as you can, "I'm afraid I don't have the time, sorry," then walk swiftly yet Calmly away just as readily as you are able.

- Always Pretend you don't know what the Grand Agenda is all about. That's the way to Do It.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Hop on the Dumpster Bus't. You know you want to.

Dumpster Bust Exclusive: Interview with Tom Wolfe

Well, to be fair, it's not an actual interview, but I did chat with the dude for a very brief spell this very evening in Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena. It was a book signing for Mr. Wolfe's latest, I Am Charlotte Simmons, an expose in modern collegiate life that is rife with the social, racial, and class clashes that he is so well known for.

For those of you who may not be familiar with his work, Tom Wolfe has written such classics as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, Bonfire of the Vanities, and A Man in Full. Bonfire is, in my opinion, a masterpiece: it so clearly captures 1980s New York in both its go go capitalist glory and down low gritty underbelly. You can practically smell the Reaganonmics on every page.

Anyway, this was the first time I've ever been to a live and in-person book signing with a famous personage. I did attend a reading given by Gary Hart last month, but didn't stick around for the signing part. In any event, I didn't really know what to expect. As I got closer to the signing table (there was some other dude sitting next to Mr. Wolfe, probably a publicist of some kind, who had the job of opening the book to the title page and handing it over to the author, which I found interesting) I noticed that Mr. Wolfe was chatty enough with many of the signees. One Asian guy ahead of me had the audacity to ask him if he wanted to join the man for a "real Chinese dinner." He was serious, too.

I grew bold as my turn came.

[Geek Disclaimer: What you are about to read is geeky. You are forewarned. Have a nice day. ~ DB Management]

EB: I was wondering if people ask you about Neil Cassidy these days.

TW: They do, occasionally.

EB: The reason I ask is that I'm fascinated by Cassidy's place in Jack Kerouac's work and his appearance in Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Neil Cassidy was written as the character Dean Moriarty in On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. A close friend of Kerouac's (at least until Kerouac's later drunken redneck days) he appeared as different characters in many of his works. On the Road, though, is a towering achievement, and I'm always elated to read the early rollicking passages in that book.

Anyway, the events of On the Road took place around 1949 or so. Acid Test takes place sometime in the mid- to late-sixties (not sure exactly) and is of course the real-life depiction of Ken Kesey and his band of "merry pranksters," real legit hippies in every sense of the word: organizing love-ins and "acid tests" which are designed to open your doors and let the sun shine in, etc. Flower Power all the way, shall we say. They also drove around in a bus and would stop off in staid conservative areas with the idea of "blowing people's minds" with their audacious counter-culture spirit. Enter Cassidy, again. The dude was the driver of that bus, the same bus that was reputedly the inspiration for The Beatle's "Magical Mystery Tour." The guy managed to show up at the birth of two of the most important cultural movements of the 20th Century: the beat and hippie movements. It amazes me that more people don't know about this.

Therefore, I had to ask the TW about it.

TW: Well, Cassidy was really a tragic figure. People kept wanting him to be the character that was in On the Road, which caused him to get more and more into speed so that he could be that character, so that he could always be on.

This was great stuff -- finally someone connecting the dots, albeit briefly, between these two eras.

TW: But you know, they say Kerouac got his writing style from Cassidy.

EB: But he didn't translate nearly as well to the written page.

TW: That's true.

I happen to know this as a fact as I own a copy of The First Third, the only book Cassidy ever published. He was an interesting guy, but no writer like Kerouac.

And that was that. The guy next to me piped in and asked if Western writer Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove, etc.) was part of Kesey's merry pranksters. Mr. Wolfe said that he was for a time, and then delved into some kind of story that had McMurtry on the lam in Mexico. The part I remember is the best line in which TW, recalling a long-ago meeting of his with McMurtry, said, "Oh... a real live fugitive."

All in all a very cool experience, and I look forward to delving into Charlotte Simmons. Well, not literally, but you get the picture.

I should note that going to this particular reading/signing was in a sense an homage to a great writer, but also extremely timely as the novel I'm working on is a comedy/mystery that takes place on a college campus. As I told my wife Amy about the exchange with TM on the walk home, we joked about how I could have taken the conversation one step too far, like into "real Chinese dinner" territory, which would have undoubtedly involved me saying, "You know, I'm writing a novel that takes place on a college campus too. Isn't that nuts?" That being said, it was cool timing all round and will the night will make a great story if (when?) I ever get Possible Ends published.

Ah, but to finish it first! And it's 2:31 am here at the Pasadena Compound. Turn on the claxon, it's time to write!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Now we're talking.

H.O.P.E. Is On the Way

H.O.P.E. Is On the Way... no, not for beleaguered Democrats everywhere, but for people who bought a copy of Ashlee Simpson's debut album, Autobiography. H.O.P.E., or Horrified Observers of Pedestrian Entertainment, is bravely filling the gap between those pre-teens who purchased the younger Simpson's album and the horror (the horror!) of learning that she partially lip-synched her recent Saturday Night Live performance.

I, for one, sincerely H.O.P.E. that Dumpster Bust is never forced to mention this sordid matter again and that Ms. Simpson's sounds (or stylings, I guess) fade gracefully back into the teenie pop culture hype machine kaleidoscope.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Geek Out (Beep Beep): The Dark Tower

I’m inaugurating a new column, if you will, called Geek Out (Beep Beep), which means I can then feel free to wax geek-like about any topic I damned well please without feeling the need to preempt the discussion by discussing how damned geeky it is. Consider it a disclaimer, or don’t consider it at all: up to you.

Now, let’s get down to business. Dark Tower business. You know who you are, say thankya. I’ve been reading and eagerly awaiting the next tome in The Dark Tower cowboy western sci-fi fantasy meta-fiction saga for almost twenty years now. And I just finished The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower a few weeks ago. Indeed, in one of the earliest incarnations of Dumpster Bust: The E-Zine I reviewed Book V, Wolves of the Calla. Only reason I mention is to show how speedily the final three installments rolled out compared to the earlier editions, the first of which was conceived by a youthful college student named Stephen King.

Most people know by now that Mr. King was almost killed by a drunk driver who hit him on the side of a dusty road in rural Maine. What some may not know is that this event became a central force in both speeding the final three Dark Tower books, and that they became central events in the fiction of the books themselves. Which of course means that our man S King put himself in his own novels, and three of them for good measure. That he could do this in the midst of a seven book cycle that involves multiple worlds, a grand quest that sits besides The Lord of the Rings in scope, monsters, demons, vampires, several characters from previous novels, and that actually forms the philosophical basis of almost every book and story the man has written, is audacious to say the least. To state that he mostly pulls all of this off while providing a satisfying ending to one of the best fantasy series of all time is testament to the (staying) power of this wonderful writer and master story spinner.

The series begins with, in my opinion, just about the best opening line to a book, period: The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. That’s the stuff of epic quest and dreams. That’s a line that helped me to decide that I wanted to be a writer.

If a mini-series or set of movies ever get made out of this grand adventure, I only hope they do it right and place it in the hands of someone like Peter Jackson. I will salivate to learn who would play Roland of Gilead, Jake Chambers, Eddie and Susannah Dean, and Walter/Randall Flagg/The Man in Black. And to imagine what cgi could do for Oy the Billy Bumbler of Mid-World. I see in my mind’s eye the final scene, Roland finally arrived to The Dark Tower, the surrounding fields of roses representing his life (and all of the worlds’) quest. I see it as part Frodo and Sam at Mt. Doom, part Braveheart or Errol Flynn storming the final castle, and, oddly enough, The Blair Witch Project rolled into one. It’s magical, frightening, and beautiful.

It was worth the wait.

Know Your Enemy #731: Ain't no Dumpster Busting going on up in here.

We’re not gonna protest?

There’s a line near the end of the brilliant PCU (which reminds me: I will at some point do a long-planned breakdown of one of my particularly favorite sub-genres of film, the campus comedy):

“We’re not gonna protest.”

There’s some seriously troubled waters out there -- in Iraq, the Middle East, with nuclear proliferation, global terror, the US deficit, low-wage job growth, the cancellation of Angel and Firefly, take your pick, really -- and those of us who were looking for new leadership are now being asked to sit our backsides down (facing backwards) in the back of the boat, near the buzzing engine and the exhaust, with whatever scavenger birds that happen to be in the neighborhood aiming their posteriors at our exposed and non-suntan lotioned heads as they flutter about in a most menacing and untoward manner.

We’re hanging our heads over the rail in the back of the boat, watching the wake break upon itself again and again. There’s troubled waters down there and tides heading places we dare not guess; we’re feeling disheartened, queasy, and in some cases, goodly hung over, and we’re not sure just what the hell to do about it.

Do we hope for failure these next four long years, so that They (and us, too) will Get What’s Coming to Them? Then They surely will See? Or do we hope with fleeting sanity that policies, attitudes, and ideas we know in our deepest hearts to be flawed will somehow work and all will be rosy and shiny and nice-smelling again? (I call this the It’s-So-Crazy-It-Just-Might-Work theory.)

The answer is: I really don’t know. I don’t know whether, during our long impending sentences in the back of the boat, we should break out the magic markers and the protest signs and the glue and the (safety) scissors and the glitter, or whether we should twiddle our thumbs, learn to whittle (hopefully not our thumbs), and work out in our collective minds whether Joni loved Chachi nearly as much as Chachi loved himself.

It’s late night rant and contemplation time here on the Western Edge of the World Resort Spa & Crappy Ferry. If anyone has an idea, I’d love to hear about it.

Oh, by the way: looks like Condoleezza Rice is going to replace Colin Powell as Secretary of State.

Here’s my plan: I’m going to ask the boat’s skipper whether there’s a hot dog vendor anywhere on this bad boy, then I’m going to lay down (under my white-painted wooden bench), take a nap and pretend this all ‘tis a dream.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Chelsea knows how to Dumpster Bust. Do you?

Long Way Round

I suppose I lied a little bit in my previous post, that about my interests, as I neglected to mention my budding enthusiasm (obsession?) for reality television. No, not crap like The Bachelor or Big Brother or Brave New World or what have you, but there are a number of gripping shows, at least for those out there like me who tend toward sloth-like periods in front of the tube until Inspiration Takes Flight, or it's time to walk the dog, or something.

Anyway, there's a truly terrific show on Bravo (Thursday nights @ 8) called Long Way Round. I don't know if it's "reality TV" as much as a documentary, but the basis of the show is that two guys travel nearly around the world on motorcycles. The interesting things are that one of them is quite famous (Ewan McGregor of Star Wars and Moulin Rouge and etc. fame) and that they take a truly bizarre/fascinating route: east from London through Europe, followed by Central Asia (last week's episode had them by the Caspian Sea and in Kazakhstan) and onward through Mongolia and Siberia (and the mysterious/dread-inspiring Road of Bones), and finally over to Alaska, a quick jaunt down through Canada, and then across the US to New York City.

It's a great travel documentary through places that Westerners rarely go, let alone see; it's a foray into the cultural/linguistic/logistical difficulties of making such a grand adventure; but most of all it's a story of buddies from the UK who have a passion for motorcycles and are having the time of their lives while traversing the globe and above all experiencing the weird, scary, and wonderful things along the way.

You couldn't pay me to get on a motorcycle, let alone traipse off on a 20,000 mile worldwide trek, but you can't help being inspired by the enormity of the task. Back in the late '90s I did a 10,000 mile trip across the US with a good pal of mine in my old Mazda Protege (the Millennium Falcon of automobiles, I'm convinced). and I have enough stories from that adventure to fill a book. In fact, we taped about 100 hours of conversations into a beat up tape recorder, and they still await transference to literary glory in a beat up shoe box under my bed. Anyway, I find the idea of madcap schemes -- especially long and elaborate road trips -- to be inspiring. I hope that it will help to push me through the final chapters of Possible Ends, which would be the end of a different kind of adventure all together.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

It's an exploded state of mind Posted by Hello

A little bizness, and a little more about me

I should mention that Dumpster Bust was thrown off track for a time by a two-headed maelstrom (can a maelstrom throw a train or some kind of tracked mode of transport off-track... and can a maelstrom, in theory, have two heads? Well hell, at DB a maelstrom CAN have two heads, and a maelstrom can dream) of graduate studies and the production of my first novel (working title: Possible Ends).

Now that I'm nearing graduation (next month, thank the Lords) I am back to work on several levels of my Evil Master Plan.

As for Dumpster Bust: my main interests are politics, music, movies, and books, with a good healthy sprinkling of sports, media, and technology for good measure. So a lot of what you'll see here at DB: The Blog will revolve around those topics. However, if you've got something to say, I invite you to, in the words of our almost leader, John Kerry (sniff...): Bring It On.

As for our almost leader, our almost President, John Kerry: I have to state, up front and at the outset, that the re-election of Dubya Dubya II (The Sequel!) knocked me on my ass. Getting back to life, getting back to good things like The Novel and DB and taking the dog (Chelsea, she of Stout Heart and the Will to Misbehave) to the park and so forth are what we're all going to need to make it through the -- let's say it together -- the next 50 months.

Parcheesi, anyone?

Welcome to Dumpster Bust

Hey y'all,

For any and all of you who have made it this far, I offer my thanks and I bid you welcome. While Dumpster Bust is a new blog, it's a continuation of an idea (and a state of mind?) that's been around for about a year now. In its e-zine incarnation (an electronic magazine, that in DB's case was distributed via e-mail) Dumpster Bust was a place where ideas, opinions, travelogues, odd ball interviews, and strange short fiction coexisted.

What's the problem then, you ask? Well, it was a hell of a lot of work to get each issue out. As a one-man-band editor, staff, and publisher (with the kind help of several of you out there from time-to-time), it took a goodly block of time to write (or cajole/bribe others to contribute), edit, and publish.

I hope that Dumpster Bust: The Blog will still be a place for the strange concoction mentioned above. I certainly will be adding my thoughts, ideas, and opinions (often, I hope) and I invite everyone out there to be the same. Another reason why I started Dumpster Bust was to have a continuing conversation of sorts with old friends and newcomers alike, and I very much hope that will continue in Blog Land.

That being said, welcome once again, and let the games begin...

Eric Berlin